Friday, November 11, 2011

Success with (Dis)Honor at Penn State.

 Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past week has by now heard something about the Penn State scandal.  The story is too unbelievable, too stunning, and too disturbing to rehash.  All we as spectators can do is ask the mystifying questions: how could this go on for so long? How come no one said anything? How could anyone pretend nothing happened?  Why was everyone apparently more concerned about themselves and their school than about the children? The more I learn about this story the more I just shake my head in utter bewilderment; why?
Is there anything, any words, from the entire English language that could be formed into a sentence that could begin to answer these and other questions???
Thoughts on Penn State:
1.       PSU doesn’t deserve football if this is what they are willing to allow this to go on.
2.       The “Death Penalty” should be applied to the program.  This is a loss of” institutional control” if there ever was such a thing.
3.       “Joe Pa” was successful, but not honorable. When honor and morality were desperately needed, he was lacking.
4.       An entire administration sold its soul for football. The President, the Athletic Director, a Vice President and for God’s sake Mike McQueary?
5.        Happy Valley will never be the same. They painted over the Jerry Sandusky moral, but perhaps they should have left it to be always reminded what they allowed for football glory.
Criticisms of PSU are all over the web these days and rightly so, but I’d also like to ask a bigger question.  Penn State is not alone, college football is entirely driven by money and winning; the two are interrelated.  Winning brings money, money tends to bring winning.  NCAA BCS football presidents have bought into the cult of money and success; those are the only two things that matter. The ridiculous BCS conference realignments are about noting more than money; school presidents are chasing after a pay day and they’re more than willing to look the other way now and then in order to keep a good thing going.  After all, you don’t win, you don’t make money.  Academic fraud? Sex parties? Sex abuse? Sweep it under the rug; we’ve got games to win and money to make; why should we sacrifice money for morals?
If it only stopped there, because really this is a bigger problem in American culture; our obsession with money and winning. “You ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t trying.” “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” “Winning is like shaving—you do it every day or you end up looking like a bum.” Sports fans are the worst example, we may cheer for the good guy, but we’ll always cheer for a winner. It’s amazing how fast we can forgive an athlete for an ethical failure if they are successful on the field play.  We teach our kids that in the “real” world there are always “winners” and “losers;” does there always have to be losers?  Does there always need to be winners?
If winning is the ultimate value in a society, people will do anything and everything to get there.  Penn State won; they even did so legally—yet morally? Far from it. And that’s the problem; just because I win within the confines of the law, does that make it morally right? And that’s not even getting into all the illegal stuff often done to win—and I’m not talking about just sports here.  Capitalism is all about declaring winners and losers, and to the winners go the spoils.  We see from PSU, that a company can be legal in winning, but far from moral. 
We as a society have got to take a hard look at our own values, because we’re ultimately hypocrites if we scorn the actions at Penn State, yet still promote a “win at all cost” culture in which money and winning are the only things that matter.  With all the money floating around college football to be had, it’s no wonder teams constantly push the edges to win and get a chunk of that pie.  It’s no different in our society, there’s wealth galore out there, and as long as money is God, we shouldn’t be surprised when individuals, colleges, companies, and corporations go all out to win—even if that means losing their soul.
What’s the Bible verse about gaining the whole world but losing one’s soul?
Yeah, America, that’s us.

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